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- 10/19/18--14:26: East Wareham woman wins $1 million Powerball prize
- 10/19/18--15:30: Obituaries from The Republican, Oct. 19, 2018
- 10/19/18--21:38: Woman hospitalized, rescued from Chicopee condo fire
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- 10/20/18--04:00: Amherst eyes costs of educating kids from tax-exempt homes
- 10/20/18--04:40: Mega MIllions jackpot rises to world record $1.6 billion
An East Wareham woman has won $1 million from Powerball.
BRAINTREE - An East Wareham woman has won a $1 million Powerball prize.
Ilona McCahill won the large prize after her husband James picked up a Quic Pic ticket for her at a local Stop & Shop grocery store on Cranberry Highway.
Ilona and James headed to the Lottery headquarters in Braintree where the couple claimed a one-time payment of $1,000,000.
Ilona has said that she will use some of the winnings to help her family and will give another portion to charity.
The store where the McCahills purchased their ticket will get a $10,000 bonus for its sale of the ticket.
The jackpot for Saturday night's Powerball drawing is an estimated $470 million. The cash option on the prize is an estimated $268.6 million.
Officials within Gov. Charlie Baker's environmental affairs secretariat on Friday released a damning report covering ticket-fixing and hidden cameras, among other issues within the Massachusetts Environmental Police. Read the report.
Officials within Gov. Charlie Baker's environmental affairs secretariat on Friday released a damning report covering accusations of ticket-fixing and hidden cameras, among other issues within the Massachusetts Environmental Police.
The report was released late Friday afternoon, as the officials said they fired James McGinn, who worked as Baker's campaign driver during the 2014 gubernatorial election before he took over as head of the Environmental Police.
The report is embedded below.
McGinn, a retired State Police sergeant who also spent time working for FEMA, had been suspended without pay earlier this month while an internal review was underway.
The review looked into allegations that McGinn was involved in fixing tickets for friends and using taxpayer funds to install hidden cameras to spy on employees in Westborough.
McGinn declined to be interviewed for the report.
The man pulled out a Ruger .22-caliber handgun and fired into the air as he walked on Calhoun Street in the city's North End, prosecutors said.
A man living in the country illegally has pleaded guilty to firearms and immigration charges in Springfield federal court, prosecutors said.
Manreal Altamirano-Navarro was living illegally in Springfield on Dec. 20, 2017, when he pulled out a Ruger .22-caliber handgun and fired into the air as he walked on Calhoun Street in the city's North End.
According to prosecutors, a law enforcement officer witnessed Altamirano-Navarro fire the weapon and notified Springfield police, who took the suspect into custody.
Once he was detained, police discovered not only the firearm but a fraudulent permanent resident card and a fraudulent resident alien card, both bearing Altamirano-Navarro's photograph.
Judge Mark Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for Jan. 18. Altamirano-Navarro faces a potential 30 years in federal prison, nine years of supervised released and up to $700,000 in fines.
The suspect, who hasn't been publicly identified, was first reported as an erratic driver in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, according to State Police. Watch video
An 18-year-old Manchester, New Hampshire, man will be facing multiple charges following an alleged carjacking, police pursuit and stabbing of a state trooper in New Salem, Massachusetts.
The suspect, who hasn't been named, was first reported as an erratic driver in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, according to State Police.
The man allegedly crashed into another vehicle in Walpole, New Hampshire, carjacked the owner of that vehicle and led police on a chase that went through Vermont and into Massachusetts.
When the pursuit reached New Salem, the suspect crashed, stabbed a State Police trooper in the head and was shot in the stomach, authorities said.
Both the 47-year-old trooper and suspect are expected to survive.
The incident remains under investigation.
The city is working with a Boston firm to evaluate needed repairs at the Campanile at Court Square in advance of future efforts to restore the historic clock tower. Watch video
SPRINGFIELD -- The city is working with a Boston firm to help evaluate what repairs are needed now and in the future at the historic, long-deteriorating Campanile tower at Court Square.
The approximately $450,000 architectural study includes both an interior and exterior evaluation of the tower, including rigging and roping on the exterior facade to aid the analysis, said Peter Garvey, the city's director of capital asset construction. Bruner/Cott of Boston is the hired architectural firm.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno joined Garvey and other city officials in going inside the campanile this week for a first-hand view.
The historic Campanile has been been long-closed to the public, its exterior lined with black safety netting. The 275-foot tall clock tower is located between Symphony Hall and City Hall, collectively known as the Municipal Group. The buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
In April, the city announced it was installing additional reinforced mesh bands on the building's fourth corner and at key structural points as a temporary measure.
A report is being developed to identify critical safety work that is required, as well as preparing for future work, Garvey said.
"It's the first step for restoration of the Campanile," he said.
The full restoration of the Campanile is expected to cost millions of dollars, with the city seeking multiple funding sources.
Hannah Hunting, 32, was cleaning out her van parked at the corner of Fay and Orange roads in New Salem with her sons, ages 8 and 5, when she heard a screech. Watch video
It all happened so fast.
Hannah Hunting, 32, was cleaning out her van parked outside her home at the corner of Fay and Orange roads in New Salem with her sons, ages 8 and 5, when she heard a screech.
She thought it was just a car crash.
But then Hunting saw a Massachusetts State Police trooper chasing a suspect. The chase landed right in front of her home.
The suspect jumped out out the silver Toyota Camry he was driving and went toward the trooper and his cruiser, Hunting recalled Friday afternoon.
Then she saw the suspect put his hand in his pocket.
"Immediately I yelled at my kids to get in the van and put their heads down," Hunting said.
Then she saw a chaotic scene unfold as the suspect opened the cruiser door to get to the trooper, she said.
"I was watching from the van and I thought they were just punching," she said. "But then I realized after that he was actually stabbing the police officer."
Authorities say the incident started earlier Friday when an 18-year-old Manchester, New Hampshire, man was reported as an erratic driver in Hillsborough, New Hampshire
Police were not able to stop the driver, according to Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio. Then, the driver allegedly crashed into a silver Toyota Camry in Walpole, New Hampshire.
The 18-year-old got out of his car, allegedly pushed the driver of the Camry to the ground, got into the Camry and drove off, Procopio said.
The man then cut through Vermont on Interstate 91 south and drove into Massachusetts, eventually crashing in New Salem and getting into the altercation with a 47-year-old State Police trooper right in front of Hunting and her sons.
"Somehow the suspect got into the police car, shut the door, shots were fired at the door," Hunting said.
More police arrived in front of her home.
The suspect did not listen to police commands, Hunting said, but he was shot on her front lawn and eventually apprehended.
"I was traumatized. I was scared just thinking of my kids and just thinking, OK, he could have had a gun, he could have just opened fire," she said.
The 47-year-old trooper suffered multiple stab wounds to his head, shoulder and arm. He was flown to the University Campus of UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where he is currently undergoing surgery, authorities said. The trooper was alert and conscious when he got to the hospital and is expected to survive.
Authorities did not name the trooper, but said he has been with the State Police for 10 or 12 years and is married with children.
The suspect was shot in the torso and was also flown to UMass Memorial Medical Center and is undergoing treatment. He is also expected to survive, said First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne of the Northwestern District Attorney's office. The suspect was not identified by name.
It is not yet clear who fired a shot at the suspect, Gagne said, but the shot was in response to the trooper being stabbed.
Hunting said she heard about five shots fired.
Hunting said she did not hear the suspect say anything. She heard police yelling "knife."
"It just looked like punching to me, it just looked like over and over again," she said. "It happened super fast."
Once the suspect was handcuffed Hunting and her sons ran inside.
Hunting said her 5-year-old son is horrified by what he saw.
"We went inside and he said, 'Mama, I don't want to be a police officer when I grow up,'" Hunting recalled. "Cause he's always wanted to be."
Hunting said she told her son police are there to help.
"We have people praying and I'm thankful that we stayed safe," she said.
Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Here are the obituaries published Friday in The Republican:
The Saudi government acknowledged early Saturday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying he died during a fist fight.
ISTANBUL -- The Saudi government acknowledged early Saturday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying he died during a fist fight.
The announcement, which came in a tweet from the Saudi foreign ministry, said that an initial investigation by the government's general prosecutor found that Khashoggi been in discussions with people inside the consulate when a quarrel broke out, escalating to a fatal fist fight.
#STATEMENT | The investigation showed the death of Jamal Khashoggi during a fight in the Consulate-- Foreign Ministry [?] [?] (@KSAmofaEN) October 19, 2018
The Saudi government said it had fired five top officials and arrested 18 other Saudis as a result of the initial investigation. Those fired included Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.
The announcement marks the first time that Saudi officials have acknowledged that Kashoggi was killed inside the consulate. Ever since he disappeared on Oct. 2 while visiting the mission, Saudi officials have repeatedly said that he left the consulate alive and that they had no information about his whereabouts or fate.
Turkish investigators had concluded days ago that Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul.
Earlier Friday, Turkish prosecutors questioned staff at the Saudi Consulate, state media said, suggesting attempts to strengthen a possible criminal case with insider details from the last place journalist Jamal Khashoggi was seen alive.
An undisclosed number consulate employees in Istanbul were interviewed by prosecutors, the semiofficial Anadolu news agency reported, a day after Turkish authorities began combing through wooded areas outside Istanbul in an apparent search for Khashoggi's remains.
Turkish officials say that Khashoggi -- a U.S. resident -- was killed by a 15-member Saudi hit squad after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2.
The refocus on the consulate employees suggests that investigators are seeking to bolster a possible criminal case. Turkish officials say they also have an audio tape that purports to record Khashoggi's killing, but the tape has not been shared with American or Saudi officials.
The disappearance of Khashoggi has provoked global criticism of Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and convulsed the kingdom as it struggles to respond to increasing international pressure to explain the journalist's fate.
Turkish media reports said more than a dozen Turkish staff members of the consulate -- including technicians, drivers, telephone operators and accountants - were being interviewed by prosecutors.
Their accounts could provide valuable insights into the movements of Saudi officials at the mission in the hours and days before and after Khashoggi vanished.
It was not clear why the investigators waited more than two weeks to conduct the interviews, but the move comes a day after Turkish officials said they are searching two wooded areas just outside Istanbul for possible remains.
Until recently, the inquiry has focused on the consulate in Istanbul's Levent district and the nearby residence of the Saudi consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi, who left Turkey this week.
Earlier Friday, Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country has not provided the audio recording of Khashoggi's alleged killing to American officials but promised that Turkey would "share with the world" the results of its investigation, according to Anadolu.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump said Khashoggi is likely dead and warned of "very severe" measure against Saudi Arabia if they are found to be responsible.
Several of the 15 Saudi suspects who were in Istanbul when Khashoggi went missing have close links to Saudi Arabia's security forces. Some had social media posts self-identifying as being members of Mohammed's Royal Guard -- raising questions about whether the crown prince had any knowledge of a plan to target Khashoggi.
A person close to the White House said on Thursday Saudi officials are considering a plan to shield Mohammed from scrutiny and culpability by blaming Khashoggi's apparent death on an operation ordered by on Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy head of Saudi intelligence and a close adviser to the crown prince.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the administration or the Saudi government.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post, by Tamer El-Ghobashy
Justin Carl Wong, 35, of Ontario, Canada, was sentenced to federal prison after he was found guilty of enticing two young girls to send him nude photographs of themselves.
SPRINGFIELD -- A 35-year-old Ontario man was sentenced Friday to serve 15 years in federal prison after he was found guilty of enticing two Hampshire County girls into taking and sending explicit nude photographs of themselves. The girls were 10 and 8 years old at the time.
Justin Carl Wong was extradited from Canada in 2017, and he has been held in detention since.
Authorities did not identify the Hampshire County town in which the girls lived.
Wong struck up an online relationship with the 10-year-old in December 2012, according to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. Wong offered himself as a "pretend boyfriend" until such time as she found a boyfriend in "real life."
Wong enticed the girl into sending him explicit nude photographs of herself as well as others with the 8-year-old girl on Dec. 19, 2012, prosecutors said. On the day the photos were sent, Wong communicated with the 8-year-old and demanded more nude photographs of her, which she sent.
In 2014, Wong was indicted on criminal charges, and in 2017 he was extradited to the United States.
In July of this year, Wong pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.
On Friday, Judge Mark Mastroianni handed down the 15-year sentence to be followed by 10 years of supervised release.
The Massachusetts State Police said Friday night that both the trooper and the suspect involved in the shooting and stabbing in New Salem Friday afternoon are listed in stable condition following surgery.
Both a Massachusetts State Police trooper and the suspect who allegedly stabbed him are listed in stable condition at the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.
State police spokesman David Procopio issued a statement just after 9 p.m. Friday indicating that the 47-year-old trooper, who was stabbed multiple times when he attempted to arrest an 18-year-old man, was out of surgery and was listed in stable condition.
The suspect, who suffered a gunshot wound, was also listed in stable condition following surgery.
Police said the suspect, a resident of Manchester, New Hampshire, crossed the state line into Massachusetts in a car he had carjacked earlier and crashed that car on Route 202 in New Salem. A Massachusetts trooper who had pursued the suspect attempted to make an arrest but was stabbed several times.
Both men were airlifted from New Salem to UMass Memorial Medical Center.
The incident is being investigated by detectives attached to the Northwestern district attorney's office, the state police Crime Scene Services and Ballistics units, along with investigators from the Orange and Erving police departments.
The names of the men are being withheld by the DA's office.
"I think we're living in two different worlds," Geoff Diehl, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's GOP challenger, said early on in the first of three televised debates. In both those worlds, though, Donald Trump is in the White House.
"I think we're living in two different worlds," Geoff Diehl, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's GOP challenger, said early on in the first of three televised debates.
In both those worlds, though, Donald Trump is in the White House, and he was the focus of a contentious Friday night match-up between Diehl and Warren as the incumbent repeatedly sought to tie Diehl to a president who remains deeply unpopular in Massachusetts.
Warren, a Cambridge Democrat who was first elected in 2012, is running for a second six-year term while considering a 2020 run for president.
Diehl, a Whitman Republican who co-chaired Trump's presidential campaign in Massachusetts, pointed to areas of disagreement, saying he opposed elements of the Trump administration's tax code rewrite that he viewed as harmful to Massachusetts and an increase in the federal-level gas tax. But he also added that the rewritten tax code has boosted the US economy.
"You're going to hear a lot about Donald Trump in this debate because Senator Warren clearly wants to run against him in the 2020 elections, "Diehl said.
The hour-long WBZ-TV debate was moderated by political analyst Jon Keller. Diehl and Warren face off next on Sunday, Oct. 21, at a debate put together by a consortium of Western Massachusetts outlets. MassLive is a co-sponsor.
"I am not going to be voting 100 percent of the time, as you erroneously claim, with the president," Diehl said, addressing Warren.
That prompted Warren read a quote from Diehl at a Worcester event earlier this year: "We need someone that's gonna have his back and I promise you I will have his back 100 percent."
"Absolutely, it doesn't mean you have to vote exactly how he tells you to vote," Diehl said in response to Warren.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's name came up during the debate, too.
"I am not a Mitch McConnell Republican," Diehl said about the Kentucky Republican. "I am a Massachusetts Republican that has worked with Democrats and Republicans to --"
Warren cut in. "I'm sorry so when was it exactly that you called out Mitch McConnell on this and said you were opposed to a trillion and a half dollars in tax cuts for billionaires?"
"I think I'm doing it right now," Diehl said. " I think I'm doing it right now, senator."
"Oh, you waited until tonight to do it?" Warren said.
Keller, the moderator, asked about Saudi Arabia admitting writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside their Istanbul consulate.
Warren called Khashoggi's death "an attack on democracy," and then said Trump should be offering a more aggressive response. "Does he owe money to the Saudis?" Warren said. "Nobody knows because Donald Trump has kept all that secret."
"Yeah, we've got to protect freedom of the press around the world," Diehl said, while calling Saudi Arabia is a "strong ally" for the US in the Middle East and working to keep terrorism in check.
"The fact of the matter is though the Middle East is still unsafe and it's good to have, in the long haul, an ally like Saudi Arabia," he said.
The US should hold allies like Saudi Arabia "accountable when atrocities like this happen," Diehl added.
"So I think we just heard what it means to have Donald Trump's back 100 percent of the time," Warren said in her rebuttal. "He gives a limp response when someone from the press has been brutally murdered, and Geoff Diehl's there to help him out."
The general election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 6. Independent candidate Shiva Ayyadurai is also on the ballot.
Here are the winning numbers in Friday's Mega Millions lottery drawing. Watch video
Lottery fever is spreading after the jackpot in the latest Mega Millions drawing climbed this week to $1 billion.
Here are the winning numbers in Friday's drawing:
15-23-53-65-70; Mega Ball: 07; Megaplier: 2X
The estimated jackpot for the drawing is $1 billion. The cash option is about $565 million. If no one wins, the Mega Millions jackpot will get even bigger for the next drawing.
According to the game's official website, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350.
Players pick six numbers from two separate pools of numbers -- five different numbers from 1 to 70 and one number from 1 to 25 -- or select Easy Pick. A player wins the jackpot by matching all six winning numbers in a drawing.
Jackpot winners choose whether to receive 30 annual payments, each five percent higher than the last, or a lump-sum payment.
Mega Millions drawings are Tuesdays and Fridays and are offered in 44 states, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Tickets cost $2 each.
One woman was transported to a Springfield hospital Friday night, after Chicopee fire officials said she was rescued from a condominium they found full of black smoke. The fire at 25 Meadowlark Drive is under investigation.
One woman was rescued from a structure fire in Chicopee Friday night and transported to the Baystate Medical Center, a fire official said.
Chicopee Fire Capt. Mark Galarneau said firefighters found no indication of fire from the outside of 25 Meadowlark Dr. when they responded to a report of alarms sounding. But, when they opened the door to the unit they found it filled with dense, black smoke.
Firefighters found the woman following a search and she was taken to the hospital. Galarneau did not know the woman's condition.
Galarneau said fire officials believe the woman was alone in the unit at the time of the fire.
A Chicopee Fire Department investigator along with investigators from the state Fire Marshal's Office are at the scene trying to determine the exact cause of the blaze.
Nationwide, Massachusetts students consistently are among the top performing students. Within the state, averages vary.
Nationwide, Massachusetts students consistently are among the top performing students. Within the state, averages vary.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released SAT performance by school district for the 2017-2018 school year. Scores vary from one where students scored an average of 757 in math to another with a school average of 418.
View school averages across the state in the database below.
Berkshire County's first peer-led addiction recovery center opened in Pittsfield Friday afternoon, the state's only recovery support center west of the Interstate 91 corridor.
Berkshire County's first peer-led addiction recovery center opened in Pittsfield Friday afternoon, the state's only recovery support center west of the Interstate 91 corridor.
Living in Recovery, housed at the George B. Crane Memorial Center at 81 Linden St., aims to help people permanently break free from addiction through community support.
Like other recovery support centers, Living in Recovery's programming and activities will be shaped by its members. But several are already on the calendar, such as creative writing workshops, guided meditations, community hikes, family movie nights, as well as recovery meetings that are open to a member's relatives and friends.
"We wanna build a bridge from early recovery to long-term recovery," Joe Buyse, program director of Living in Recovery, said. "And quality of life is essential."
It's common to see people in the initial stages of recovery relapsing, which could lead to their cycling in and out of detox or treatment centers, Buyse said. Living in Recovery has "coaches" to help people navigate everyday life challenges that could trip them up, such as finding a job and housing.
Though the opioid epidemic is in the forefront of discussions about addiction - state officials have confirmed 1,909 opioid-related deaths in 2017, nearly triple the rate in 2007 - Living in Recovery wants to help battle not just substance addictions. The center can provide resources and referrals to those suffering from addictions like gambling, tobacco, pornography, food and the internet.
A program of the nonprofit organization ServiceNet, Living in Recovery is dedicated to the memory of Joseph R. Botz, a Pittsfield man who died last year at 45 after struggling with alcoholism.
Botz's mother and stepfather, Donna and Dave Darcy, donated $145,000 in their desire "to be part of establishing services to help people who were in recovery," said Jay Sacchetti, senior vice president with ServiceNet.
Other funders included the state department of public health, which provided $27,000 for startup costs such as computers and furniture.
ServiceNet, which offers mental health and human services throughout western Massachusetts, has long seen a need for a recovery support center in the Berkshires. The nonprofit had asked the state to fund one in 2014, but the effort failed.
There are 10 existing state-funded recovery support centers in Massachusetts, the westernmost of which are in Holyoke and Greenfield.
The Massachusetts budget for 2019 provides money for five additional state-funded recovery support centers, Sacchetti said, and ServiceNet intends to propose that Living in Recovery become one of them.
The center's current funding will last two years, Sacchetti said.
Around 2 p.m. Friday, dozens of people gathered in front of the George B. Crane Memorial Center for a ceremony to mark the opening of Living in Recovery. That afternoon, volunteers were giving a tour of the recovery support center's rooms on the second floor, which featured big windows and inspirational lines written on the wall.
Inside one of the rooms was a painting of a huge, leafy tree, dedicated to Botz.
Another recovery support center in the Berkshires is anticipated to open in North Adams sometime this month. The Beacon Recovery Community Center, at The Green on 85 Main St., will be offering services for people coping with alcohol and drug addiction, according to organizers.
"Long-term recovery not only can happen, but it does happen," said Buyse, who describes himself as living in recovery from alcohol. "It happens a lot."
For more information on Living in Recovery's programming and activities, call (413) 320-35456.
10-state funded peer recovery support centers
The Recovery Connection
31 Main St., Marlborough, MA 01752
Tel. (508) 485-0298
STEPRox Recovery Support Center
9 Palmer St., Roxbury, MA 02119
Tel. (617) 442-7837
Devine Recovery Center
70 Devine Way, South Boston, MA 02127
Tel. (857) 496-1384
A New Way Recovery Center
85 Quincy Ave. Suite B, Quincy, MA 02169
Tel. (617) 302-3287
Everyday Miracles Peer Recovery Support Center
25 Pleasant St., Worcester, MA 01609
Tel. (508) 799-6221
New Beginnings Peer Recovery Center
487 Essex St., Lawrence, MA 01840
Tel. (978) 655-3674
Stairway to Recovery
142 Crescent St., Brockton, MA 02302
Tel. (774) 257-5660
The Recover Project
68 Federal St., Greenfield, MA 01301
Tel. (413) 774-5489
Hope for Holyoke Recovery Support Center
100 Suffolk St., Holyoke, MA 01040
Tel. (413) 561-1020
PIER Recovery Center
209 Main St., Hyannis, MA 02601
Tel. (508) 827-6150
Work on the project to install safety equipment at the railroad crossing at Birnie Road and Tina Lane is expected to begin next year. Watch video
LONGMEADOW -- Three months after a safety review determined lights and gates should be installed at the railroad crossing where a plow driver was killed in a collision with a train, the ball was still in Amtrak's court.
The Federal Railroad Administration requested the review after Warren P. Cowles, who worked for the town's Department of Public Works for nearly 30 years, backed his plow truck onto the tracks and into the path of a northbound Amtrak train during a snow storm March 14, 2017. His death was the fifth at the Birnie Road and Tina Lane crossing since 1975.
Guy Bresnahan -- then a manager in the rail and transit division at the state Department of Transportation -- wrote to Paul O'Mara, then the deputy general manager for Amtrak's Northeast Division, on June 29, 2017, asking to "initiate a dialogue" with the railroad about the proposed work.
He followed up a month later, noting in a July 25 email to O'Mara and another Amtrak official, "there has been no movement and the Town of Longmeadow has asked me for your phone number."
"Any help you can provide in getting this unstuck would be appreciated," Bresnahan wrote.
Under an agreement with Amtrak announced this week, MassDOT will pay $700,000 toward the installation of lights, gates and other infrastructure at the crossing, which has been closed to vehicles since the crash. The railroad will pay the remaining 10 percent of the project's cost. The work is expected to begin next year.
Reaching the accord on the improvements -- which town officials have sought since the early 1980s -- was the product of steady pressure by local, state and federal officials, as well as Cowles' family, according to interviews and to documents obtained by The Republican through public records requests.
'A funding source of last resort'
MassDOT's $700,000 commitment to the work comes from a pool of money the state receives through the Federal Highway Administration's Section 130 program. The federal fund was established in 1987 for "the elimination of hazards at railway-highway crossings."
The program -- credited with helping drop fatalities at highway rail crossings 57 percent since it began -- pays 90 percent of a project's cost. In federal fiscal 2019, which began Oct. 1, the program's total allocation is $240 million.
In an email summarizing a site visit May 5, 2017, Bresnahan staked out MassDOT's position on paying for the work by dipping into its Section 130 money.
"I clearly stated that MassDOT's Section 130 resources would only be considered as a funding source of last resort and that until such time as we hear from Amtrak regarding its plans for the crossing, we can't confirm funding options for recommended improvements," he wrote to several colleagues in the department.
But the last resort became the best option for getting the work done.
MassDOT included the project in its Section 130 Work Program for the state's 2018 fiscal year, documents show. A project agreement, meanwhile, shows the Federal Highway Administration originally approved a $738,000 award to MassDOT through the Section 130 program on Sept. 18, 2017.
In the year since, MassDOT spokeswoman Jaquelyn Goddard said Friday, "conversations have been occurring to finalize the cost of the improvements, to finalize the scope of the work to be done, and to reach agreement with Amtrak" regarding the railroad's share of the cost.
Goddard said MassDOT received the signed agreement from Amtrak this week.
"We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Amtrak and have appreciated the involvement in discussions from federal, state and local leaders," she said.
A senator steps in
After the May 5 site visit, the back-and-forth among local, state, federal and railroad officials continued through the summer.
Despite the earlier messages from MassDOT to Amtrak, Michael Stern, the railroad's deputy general counsel, emailed Longmeadow Town Manager Stephen J. Crane on Sept. 11, 2017: "We've had an internal call here on this potential project, and we are unsure if we've seen what you referred to in your call with me as the 'diagnostic analysis' of the crossing."
Crane forwarded the document seven minutes later.
State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, said U.S. Sen. Edward Markey was "instrumental in helping to break the log jam."
According to the documents The Republican obtained, Markey staffer Daniel Greene emailed David Garriepy, Gov. Charlie Baker's director of federal-state relations, on Oct. 2, 2017.
"We are hearing concerns in Massachusetts regarding the Tina Lane crossing in Longmeadow," Greene wrote. "I'd like to follow up with Amtrak and DOT on the matter to see where this issue stands."
Giselle Barry, Markey's director of communications, said members of Markey's staff attended a briefing with Amtrak and MassDOT later that month.
On Oct. 31, Markey sent a letter -- also signed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal -- to Amtrak's president and CEO, urging the railroad to work with the town and state to get the project done.
At a Commerce Committee nomination hearing same day, Markey mentioned the crossing as he questioned Leon A. Westmoreland, who was later confirmed as a member of the Amtrak board of directors. "Congressman Westmoreland, if confirmed, how will you address these types of safety issues, where the local community wants to have action taken?" the senator asked.
Markey raised the issue again at the July 26, 2018, hearing for Amtrak board of directors nominee Rick A. Dearborn.
"After five tragic deaths at the Tina Lane and Birnie Road rail crossing, it was past time to give Amtrak the tools and resources needed to enhance safety measures at rail crossings," Markey said Friday. "I'm proud to have helped secure vital federal funding for Longmeadow. It is critical that we hastened the project's approval to ensure we make lifesaving improvements to this crossing as quickly as possible."
At a press conference a stone's throw from the crossing Friday morning, Select Board member Marie Angelides said she wanted to recognize those who worked behind the scenes to move the project forward.
"I want to talk about our unsung heroes -- our employees that quietly have been working really hard to coordinate, to work together with the family, to try to make this happen," she said.
Town records from earlier this year offered glimpses at the project inching along.
In a March report for a Select Board meeting, Crane wrote: "While the design and construction agreement between MassDOT and Amtrak has not been finalized, both agencies have been working together to advance the project."
"Compel State and Federal agencies to address Tina Lane crossing," reads a list of goals included in an April 2 meeting packet.
In their annual evaluations of Crane's performance, Angelides and board member Tom Lachiusa cited his work on the issue.
"Successfully working with numerous agencies to make improvements at the rail crossing," Angelides wrote.
"The Amtrak railroad crossing improvement is getting closer to getting funded and constructed," Lachiusa wrote. "This project has required the Town Manager to work with a number of governmental units and legislators."
Lesser also pointed to the community's role in the effort.
"What really made the difference here was the community stepping up and not taking no for an answer," he said. "That's really what gave us the fuel we needed to make our advocacy effective."
Crane and other officials said Friday that Warren Cowles' sister, Cindy J. Cowles, spurred them throughout the process.
"We miss Cowlsie, but she has done right by her brother," Crane said.
"I've waited a long time for this day, even though I kept being told it's going to be longer," Cindy Cowles, of Springfield, said Friday morning. She had a visit to her 89-year-old mother in Florida planned for Saturday, and was pleased that she'd bring her good news.
"It's long overdue -- something that should have been done," she said. "My brother would probably still be here today if this was done the last -- maybe, say, the second, the third, the fourth death. To have a fifth is kind of a shame. It's kind of a shame."
A consultant's report details the impact on municipal finance of public school students whose parents reside in tax-exempt University of Massachusetts housing.
AMHERST - At a joint meeting scheduled for Monday, the School Committee and Select Board will discuss the results of a consultant's report detailing the impact on municipal finance of public school students whose parents reside in tax-exempt University of Massachusetts housing.
That group makes up 52 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 -- 2 percent of the total student body of 2,489 in Amherst and Amherst-Pelham schools. Most are in elementary school.
Most are children of graduate students living in the North Village Apartments, according to the report.
The UMass Donahue Institute compiled the research in a 16-page paper.
The report says 35 percent of students in Amherst public schools are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunch, compared to the statewide average of 34 percent. The percentage for students whose parents attend the University of Massachusetts in tax-exempt housing eligible for reduced lunch is 75 percent.
Those students are "more likely to be high need because they are more likely to need English language instruction or because they are more likely to be defined as low income," the report says.
The report says UMass pays the town $120,000 annually "for general services provided by the town that are used by students, faculty and staff. UMass also pays for its use of town emergency services such as ambulance coverage. Additionally, occupancy fees are paid on stays at the UMass hotel."
The report breaks down the cost of educating students who come from homes that do not generate tax revenue for the town:
"In FY2018, if not exempt, Amherst's North Village Apartments would be assessed approximately $235,000 in property tax which equates to an average tax of $1,237 per unit. With 52 students living on campus and the average per-pupil expenditure in Amherst being over $20,000 dollars, simply taking the property tax for the entirety of North Village would come up nearly three-quarters of a million dollars short of the probable cost of educating the students living on campus.
"This finding highlights the fact that few households in Amherst (or in other towns) pay the full cost of educating a child. Rather, school funding relies on all taxpayers contributing to the general fund and thus toward education regardless of whether the taxpayer has children in the public schools. Additionally, a part of school funding is not derived from local revenues but rather is paid for by Chapter 70 state aid," the report says.
The report said quantifying the true cost is not an exact science.
"Defining the fair contribution toward the education of each student from the UMass campus is largely subjective. This analysis does not claim to provide the 'number.' Rather it aims to provide a selection of approaches that will provide an objective look at the cost of educating a child in Amherst and the actual contribution of community members toward these costs. For this reason several scenarios are defined that can provide the starting point for ongoing conversations between the Town of Amherst and UMass," the report says.
According to the state Department of Revenue, the university owns 851 acres in Amherst on 152 lots with a valuation of $14,973,700. The main campus, with 129 acres, is valued at $12.5 million.
By comparison, the portion of Mount Holyoke Range in town, with 966 acres, is valued at nearly $5 million.
Amherst's fiscal 2018 budget showed revenue from state-owned land at $164,892. Payment in lieu of taxes or PILOT revenue was shown at $948,476, compared to $947,025 in 2014.
A report from the state auditor in 1994 said "the reasoning behind state PILOT payments to cities and towns is equity. ... Without adequate PILOT funding, the state's property tax exemption and demand for services puts upward pressure on local property taxes."
A strategic partnership agreement signed by Amherst and UMass in 2015 obligates the university to pay the town $120,000 per year "in recognition of ... educating K-12 students who live in tax-exempt housing." That agreement expires on June 30, 2019.
The planned 45-minute discussion of the Donahue Institute report begins at 6 p.m. Monday at Town Hall, 4 Boltwood Avenue.
With no winner drawn on Friday night, the Mega Millions jackpot has risen to $1.6 billion.
With no winner drawn on Friday night, the Mega Millions jackpot has risen to $1.6 billion -- the largest lottery jackpot in world history.
The top prize, which would be awarded to a winner of the next drawing on Tuesday, edges out the $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot that was won on Jan. 16, 2016.
Last night's numbers -- 5, 23, 53, 65 and 70, with a Mega Ball of 7 -- were not selected by any players, allowing the jackpot to increase for the 25th consecutive contest.
There were 15 tickets that won $1 million or better prizes, the lottery said in a news release, though none were from Massachusetts.
The $1.6 billion jackpot is for any winners who choose the annuity option. The cash option is nearly $905 million.
The value of the prize is greater than the gross domestic product of 20 countries, according to the World Bank.
Mixed martial artist Conor McGregor was in a giving mood when he visited a Boston firehouse on Friday.
Mixed martial artist Conor McGregor was in a giving mood when he visited a Boston firehouse on Friday.
McGregor, a former UFC featherweight champion, gave 10 firefighters in the Back Bay fire station tickets to see the Boston Red Sox in the first game of the World Series, TMZ reported.
He also shared some of his Proper No. Twelve Irish whiskey, a brand he launched last month, TMZ reported. He and the firefighters raised a toast to the Red Sox.
McGregor, a native of Ireland, has previously voiced enthusiasm for Boston and its brand of Irish pride.
"The people are phenomenal out there," McGregor told Vice in 2015. "It's a true Irish town. It was crazy going out there the first time, it really was a crazy experience for me because you always hear about the Irish Americans, even when I'm in America it's like everyone is Irish."
Housing, retail and office space, a brewpub, and public access to the Housatonic River are part of the plan.
LEE -- Following six years of effort, plans by developer Jeffrey Cohen to transform an old Berkshire County paper mill into a modern commercial, residential, and public space are advancing.
With last week's award of a $4.9 million MassWorks grant to help the town of Lee build supporting infrastructure, work on the $70 million project could begin in November of 2019.
Permitting is not complete -- Cohen still needs to gain local site plan approval, reports the Berkshire Edge. The town in February approved a special zoning district to support the mixed-use development.
The six-acre Eagle Mill complex along the Housatonic River been vacant for ten years, and Cohen says he plans "to breathe new life and vibrancy into the historic site."
The project would create 80 housing units, a riverfront office building, mercantile space, a boutique hotel, and a "centerpiece public market" anchored by a brewpub. The plan improves public access to the river, creates a "flexible gathering and performance space," offers ecological enhancements, and honors the mill's history, documents state.
The 1808 Eagle Mill, which closed for good in 2008, once employed 350 people in the paper-making industry.
Cohen has praised his public and private collaborators, including local, state and federal officials.
"The saying 'It takes a village to build a village' is certainly true in the case of Eagle Mill, and the Baker-Polito administration's participation is essential to the success of this endeavor," Cohen said in a statement.
The project will be linked to Lee's historic downtown. It will also create a 2.5-acre conservation park on the north side of the river. Cohen said the complex will create 200 jobs.